We did more than look the other way
This is depressing. I had known that we aided Iraq during the war with Iran and looked the other way when they resorted to chemical weapons. But this article points to evidence that we actually supplied them with the biological ones and the plans for building their production facilities.
Published on Sunday, September 8, 2002 by the Sunday Herald (Scotland)
How Did Iraq Get Its Weapons? We Sold Them
by Neil Mackay and Felicity Arbuthnot
THE US and Britain sold Saddam Hussein the technology and materials Iraq needed to
develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.
Reports by the US Senate's committee on banking, housing and urban affairs -- which
oversees American exports policy -- reveal that the US, under the successive administrations
of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West
Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to
tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which
damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene.
Classified US Defense Department documents also seen by the Sunday Herald show that
Britain sold Iraq the drug pralidoxine, an antidote to nerve gas, in March 1992, after the end of
the Gulf war. Pralidoxine can be reverse engineered to create nerve gas.
The Senate committee's reports on 'US Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use
Exports to Iraq', undertaken in 1992 in the wake of the Gulf war, give the date and destination
of all US exports. The reports show, for example, that on May 2, 1986, two batches of
bacillus anthracis -- the micro-organism that causes anthrax -- were shipped to the Iraqi
Ministry of Higher Education, along with two batches of the bacterium clostridium botulinum,
the agent that causes deadly botulism poisoning.
One batch each of salmonella and E coli were shipped to the Iraqi State Company for Drug
Industries on August 31, 1987. Other shipments went from the US to the Iraq Atomic Energy
Commission on July 11, 1988; the Department of Biology at the University of Basrah in
November 1989; the Department of Microbiology at Baghdad University in June 1985; the
Ministry of Health in April 1985 and Officers' City, a military complex in Baghdad, in March
and April 1986.
The shipments to Iraq went on even after Saddam Hussein ordered the gassing of the Kurdish
town of Halabja, in which at least 5000 men, women and children died. The atrocity, which
shocked the world, took place in March 1988, but a month later the components and
materials of weapons of mass destruction were continuing to arrive in Baghdad from the US.
The Senate report also makes clear that: 'The United States provided the government of Iraq
with 'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical,
biological and missile-system programs.'
This assistance, according to the report, included 'chemical warfare-agent precursors,
chemical warfare-agent production facility plans and technical drawings, chemical warfare
filling equipment, biological warfare-related materials, missile fabrication equipment and
missile system guidance equipment'.
Donald Riegle, then chairman of the committee, said: 'UN inspectors had identified many
United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq
under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items
were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile
delivery system development programs.'
Riegle added that, between January 1985 and August 1990, the 'executive branch of our
government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I
think that is a devastating record'.
It is thought the information contained in the Senate committee reports is likely to make up
much of the 'evidence of proof' that Bush and Blair will reveal in the coming days to justify the
US and Britain going to war with Iraq. It is unlikely, however, that the two leaders will admit it
was the Western powers that armed Saddam with these weapons of mass destruction.
However, Bush and Blair will also have to prove that Saddam still has chemical, biological
and nuclear capabilities. This looks like a difficult case to clinch in view of the fact that Scott
Ritter, the UN's former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, says the United Nations destroyed
most of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and doubts that Saddam could have rebuilt his
stocks by now.
According to Ritter, between 90% and 95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were des
troyed by the UN. He believes the remainder were probably used or destroyed during 'the
ravages of the Gulf War'.
Ritter has described himself as a 'card-carrying Republican' who voted for George W Bush.
Nevertheless, he has called the president a 'liar' over his claims that Saddam Hussein is a
threat to America.
Ritter has also alleged that the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons emits
certain gases, which would have been detected by satellite. 'We have seen none of this,' he
insists. 'If Iraq was producing weapons today, we would have definitive proof.'
He also dismisses claims that Iraq may have a nuclear weapons capacity or be on the verge
of attaining one, saying that gamma-particle atomic radiation from the radioactive materials in
the warheads would also have been detected by western surveillance.
The UN's former co-ordinator in Iraq and former UN under-secretary general, Count Hans von
Sponeck, has also told the Sunday Herald that he believes the West is lying about Iraq's
Von Sponeck visited the Al-Dora and Faluja factories near Baghdad in 1999 after they were
'comprehensively trashed' on the orders of UN inspectors, on the grounds that they were
suspected of being chemical weapons plants. He returned to the site late in July this year,
with a German TV crew, and said both plants were still wrecked.
'We filmed the evidence of the dishonesty of the claims that they were producing chemical
and biological weapons,' von Sponeck has told the Sunday Herald. 'They are indeed in the
same destroyed state which we witnessed in 1999. There was no trace of any resumed
activity at all.'
©2002 smg sunday newspapers ltd
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